Published: November 30th 2005November 18th 2005
Hello all, I realize it has been a while since my last blog - we are all safe and well and enjoying our time in new zealand! We are now 13 hours ahead which makes phoning home quite interesting!
When I last wrote to you Clara and I had gone to Cha-am, a beach town with mostly thai visitors in Thailand. It was a little like an english beach town in that there were lots of shops lining the sea front with buckets, spades, clothes etc. However there was an amazing array of street seafood to be had - one morning we had deep fried squid with sweet chili sauce for breakfast - delicious! It was very relaxing to just spend our time walking along the beach collecting shells and relaxing on the sand. There were the occasional banana boats going past and beach vendors visiting us selling scarves and bed spreads etc as well as delicious seafood but you didn't feel hassled. Also because it is a weekend beach getaway for thai people it was lovely and quite during most of our time there. And so we headed back to bangkok and met with ele and tom spending a
couple of days enjoying Bangkok and exploring the parts we missed last time and of course filling up on cheap cd's! Also as an extra birthday present for Tom, Ele got him two ringside seats for thai boxing but sent me to go with him instead of going herself! We were close enough to smell the sweat and see the blood! No there wasn't much blood but it is a brutal sport and the atmosphere there was amazing - there was a lot of betting going on and heckling of the boxers! Beacuse we had ringside seats we got our photo taken with the champion as well, these guys are tiny but you wouldn't want to bump into them in a dark alley.
Things I miss about asia; The lemon juices!, Clara, the smiles(everyone smiles when they see you, whether they want to sell you anything or not), the delicious food (curries and fresh fruit) and amusing culinary experiences, the beautiful scarves and handicrafts, the bartering, the amusing sights e.g. a woman with a tiny chi wahwah riding on the back of her moped and an entire family piled onto a moped, the relaxed pace of life and
the sense of humour of the local people in everything they do. There are a few things I don't miss such as the constant beeping of horns on the roads in vietnam and the smell of the drains in thailand and of course the squat toilets but on the whole we had a brilliant time in south east asia!
So onto New Zealand; what a beautiful country!Many of you who have seen the Lord of the rings films (and I believe the new Narnia film was made here) will know this already. We arrived into Auckland on the 5th of November (Bonfire night!), needless to say once we had slept off our jet lag we went in search of fireworks - we didn't find an organised display however there were plenty going off all over the city for us to enjoy and the weather was a lot colder than asia so we felt quite at home! Whilst in auckland we visited the famous sky tower and generally relaxed for a few days enjoying a return to westernisation. We happened to be passing a conference centre and saw a polynesian dance being performed which was quite cool (see photo) looking
forward to learning mre about the maori culture and other polynesian cultures during our time here. Hoping to when we are back in the north island.
We moved onto a place called national park in the tongariro national park(north island) - the hostel we stayed in had a climbing wall which was quite cool and whilst staying there we completed the tongariro crossing. This is a 17km, one day hike -its the only place in the world (apparently) where you can hike inbetween two active volcano's! It is also the lord of the rings filming location for the scene's of mount doom and mordor -we had the obligatory mock up photo with Tom as Frodo (of course), me as Sam and Ele as Gollum but it is ele's photo and she has banned me from having it on the internet!! The hike was tough in place's (about the first two hours up something called the devil's staircase was the worst bit) but although we ached a bit for a few days afterwards it was definately worth it! There was still snow on the peaks and some down in the craters where we were. The walk included passing inbetween the
peaks of mount ngauruhoe and tongariro, passing the emerald lakes and the blue lake, some hot springs and basically beautiful mountain scenery. We recuperated here for a couple of days, trying another easier local walk before heading to Wellington.
Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and hence has lots to see and do. Whilst in Wellington we stayed at the YHA by the harbour which was a very nice view to have out the window and also close to the city centre. We visited the NZ national museum called Te Papa - its well worth going to, there are some really interesting and interactive exhibits including a large section on the history of new zealand and the maori culture which includes maori meeting house's which you can go into (life size) and a section on the famous treaty between the british and the maori, apparently the british version and the Maori translation are quite different, the Maori version being more in favour of the Maori people. However it seems the maori culture is celebrated and promoted in new zealand and that the new zealand culture is about equal rights and is a very PC country. Whilst in
Wellington we also climbed mount Victoria parts of which were also used in the fellowship of the ring, the views across the wellington area are beautiful from the top of here. We also went to wellington zoo and visited island bay where I got some beautiful shells.
So we caught the ferry to Picton and have now rented a car for two weeks for our time on the south island - the car is an automatic which took some getting used to, I definately prefer a manual car but it has been good fun to be driving again and be able to go where we want and when we want! our first stop in the south island was Kiakoura which is a lovely little town famous for its diverse marine life and the opportunities to observe it/swim with it/ touch it - mostly whales, dolphins and seals. We did a morning swimming with seals which was amazing! They came really close and were very playful - i took some photo's with my underwater camera which I hope have come out. It was also my first time snorkelling which was quite bizarre at first as i couldn't keep my fin's
underwater(!) and kept on floating up! Getting used to using the equipment was a bit scary at first, especially as you breathe through your mouth only but by the end I was snorkelling quite well. It was incredibly interesting to learn more about the life of seals and how we needed to mimic their body language so we did not appear to be a threat to them. We swam with juvenille's between 7 months to 3 years old and apparently this is about one of the few places in world that you can swim with seals because in other area's there is a risk of encountering shark's! The photo of the mountains and sea is at Kiakoura. It was a lovely, beautiful, relaxing place to stay, I would recommend it/ maybe return there again if I come back to NZ.
Well sorry its a long entry, I will try to do updates more often, we head to Dunedin and Queenstown next, will update soon!
There are more photos below